The Thunder tip-off their regular season on Tuesday night against the Golden State Warriors and most likely will be doing it without Russell Westbrook.
For the Thunder, Their starters have always been solid, whether it’s still questioning Andre Roberson starting at the two-spot or the unending question of who’s starting at the four, the Thunder have three main starters who are locked for their foreseeable future. That’s a great thing. Roberson, I guess you could say is a fourth but with him out for at least two more months, we’ll leave it as a question mark.
Ahh, what a point guard. He snarls as much as is explosive. Russell Westbrook, the former Most Valuable Player is coming off back-to-back seasons of averaging a triple-double. You know, something that’s never happened before. Ever. In the history of the association. While Westbrook may miss a game or two as he recovers from knee surgery, he’s going to be the starting point guard. It won’t be Raymond Felton, nor will it be Dennis Schröder. Though, Schröder will be the starter for when Westbrook misses some games.
Westbrook’s fire and drive really changes this team. It’s unlike something we’ve seen. While he says he only has one friend on the court, the basketball, we know he cares about one stat and one stat only: the win. He’ll push the Thunder to do their best and eat their hearts if they don’t. One thing that’s going to be questionable for the Thunder, is how is Westbrook’s knee? He’s pushing 30 and has undergone multiple knee surgeries. Westbrook is the one who opted for this and the iron man has barely missed any games outside of his meniscus tear, so it’s going to be interesting to see what he can do and how his “explosiveness” is still there. I’m assuming it’s still there. In today’s game, players prepare at another level than in the past. He’s also super healthy and takes his training very seriously.
Prediction: Westbrook starts 76 games; Schröder 6 games
Andre Roberson had a set back. That is maybe a worst case scenario. In January, Roberson ruptured patellar tendon. He’s been out of contact basketball since then, approximately 9 months. It’ll be almost a full year before he sees the court again. Will his defensive ability still be there? It’s amazing at how much injuries could derail everything the Thunder have build post-KD.
In steps a trio of players from Terrance Ferguson, Hamidou Diallo and Alex Abrines. Who will get the start? It’s really unknown at this point. Diallo and Ferguson split time in the preseason but Ferguson struggled and Diallo didn’t as much. I’d lean to Diallo stepping into the position if I had my choice and leaving the reserve time split between T-Ferg and Abrines. I could be way wrong with how preseason minutes figured out. Neither T-Ferg or Abrines played in the last preseason game, really skewing everyone’s minutes. Ferguson averaged 30; Diallo 26; Abrines 18. Thunder head coach is a creature of habit and will most likely go with what he knows, in Ferguson.
Prediction: Ferguson starts 16; Diallo 13; Abrines 3; Roberson (if back by Christmas) 50
This is Paul George’s world and we are just living in it. As long as he’s healthy. He’ll start. He started 79 games last season. He missed three due to his back and expect him to start something similar again. Who’s going to step up in his place? That’s the big question. Look for Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to step in and spell George if he has to miss games for whatever reason. He did start in George’s place in the first preseason game.
Prediction: George starts 80 games; Luwawu-Cabarrot 2 games
Patrick Patterson or Jerami Grant. Many were screaming for Grant over Carmelo Anthony at the end of last season. However, Patterson started all four preseason games and it appeared Grant struggled. He’s really no hidden gem anymore. Teams have a lot of tape on him and how to defend him. It also helps that Patterson, who was the projected starter last season, is healthy going through training camp.
Patterson, 29, never really found his niche last season with the Thunder. He only played 15.5 minutes per game last season and didn’t shoot it well from the floor but was decent from the three. His versatility hitting the three gives him the real edge over Grant.
Patterson struggled in the preseason. He went 6-of-22 from the floor and 4-of-16 from three. Each game found their way getting worse. He was 1-of-9 from the field and 0-of-5 from three in the finale. With Westbrook attacking and changing the game.
Grant wasn’t much better, going 11-of-35 and 3-of-10 from deep.
Prediction: Patterson starts 67 games; Grant 15 games
The Big Kiwi. Steven Adams. The love of our lives. He’s going to start as many games as he can. He’s never played a full 82 games and honestly, I don’t expect him to ever. He’s too physical of a player and that’ll come with some random injuries. Maybe a twitch in the back or a roll of the ankle, common injuries for him. So, he’ll miss a game here and there. Last season, Adams missed six games, a second most in his career. With a decent help in Nerlens Noel, the Thunder may be more inclined to let Adams rest a game or two more, instead of him forcing himself to play through pain.
Prediction: Adams starts 77 games; Noel 5 games.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!